OCU asks Ecumenical Patriarch to initiate Pan-Orthodox condemnation of Kirill's activities and racist teaching about the Russian World
This is stated in the letter to the patriarch, approved on July 27 at a meeting of the Holy Synod.
Below we offer the full text of the document:
In compliance with the decision of the Council of Bishops of May 24 this year, I am requesting you to initiate the Pan-Orthodox consideration and condemnation of the activities of Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) of Moscow, as well as of the ethnophyletic and racist doctrine of the Russian World that he preaches.
On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation insidiously launched full-scale military aggression against Ukraine without a formal declaration of war. The war unleashed by Russia in the center of Europe back in February 2014 is aimed at destroying Ukrainian statehood and is shocking in its brutality. A real genocide of the Ukrainian people is being committed before the eyes of the world. The aggressor destroys peaceful Ukrainian cities, shells hospitals and schools, rapes and tortures women and minors, kills and maims children. Among those killed by Russian troops are clergymen of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and religious mentors of other confessions. Almost 200 religious buildings, mostly Orthodox temples, were completely or partially destroyed as a result of Russian shelling.
Russia is a country that, over the centuries, has linked its identity with Orthodoxy. However, over the past decades, the Christian faith in Russia has been paganized, i.e. covertly replaced by a civil religion, seemingly based on the Orthodox tradition but alien to the spirit of the Gospel and the essence of the Holy Father’s Orthodox faith. Many soldiers of the Russian Federation who invaded our country identify themselves as Orthodox. However, the acts the occupiers commit expose them as criminals who have lost a living connection with Christ and his Church.
Every child killed, every woman raped, and every apartment building and temple destroyed is not just a war crime but also an act of renunciation of Christ, which places the perpetrator outside the graceful ambit of the Church. However, moral responsibility for the crimes committed lies not only with the direct perpetrators but also with their ideological inspirers – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and his like-minded hierarchs, who over decades have promoted the ethnophyletist and racist doctrine of the Russian World and now are blessing the assault on Ukraine.
Many people had certain hopes for the revival of church life with the election of Metropolitan Kirill to the patriarchal office (2009). However, to date, when twelve and a half years have passed since Kirill took over the throne of Moscow, it is quite obvious that the announced reforms have never been implemented, and the actual achievements of the 16th Patriarch of Moscow were only the concentration of power in the hands of one person against the complete degradation of real church conciliarity and full dependence of the Church on the Russian state.
Metropolitan and Patriarch Kirill was never the standard for practicing the Orthodox faith. Some of Patriarch Kirill’s theological statements — for example, the identification of the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity as the “Divine Energy derived from God the Father before all ages” – even caused controversy and temptation among the clergy of the Russian Church. Kirill’s almost complete indifference to theological issues safeguarded him from falling into the realm of heresy. The situation changed when the hierarch, whose attention has long been focused on geopolitical issues, decided to contribute to the creation of the Russian World doctrine – a nationalist ethnophyletic theory about the special role of the Russian nation and state in the world and the Church.
On March 15 of this year, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Declaration on the Russian World" was released, which was initially signed by more than 340 Orthodox theologians from around the world, whose number has now grown to a thousand. As stated in this Declaration, the “Russian World” is an un-Orthodox, heretical doctrine, close to the doctrine of ethnophyletism, which was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 1872. “We reject the “Russian world” heresy and the shameful actions of the Government of Russia in unleashing war against Ukraine which flows from this vile and indefensible teaching with the connivance of the Russian Orthodox Church, as profoundly un-Orthodox, un-Christian,” the Orthodox theologians who signed the Declaration note. Similar assessments were made in another public document — the public Appeal to the Primates of Orthodox Churches. This Appeal was signed by 437 clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, who asked the heads of Orthodox churches to assess the Russian World doctrine from the perspective of the Orthodox faith and, if this doctrine is condemned as heretical, to hold Kirill Gundyaev accountable under canon law, stripping him of the right to occupy the patriarchal throne.
While sharing most of the statements contained in these appeals, we would also like to draw Your All-Holiness’s attention to yet another heretical aspect of the Russian World doctrine, which significantly distorts Orthodox anthropology. We are referring to the denial of peoples' rights to historical self-determination or historical fatalism, which is inherent in the doctrine of the Russian World in Patriarch Kirill’s interpretation. According to the mythological, historical concept of the latter, Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians allegedly belong to the common civilization of the Russian World and, as such, have no moral right to further historical self-determination. The choice made in the past allegedly obliges them to be part of the Russian World or the Russian state for life.
The denial of the freedom of entire nations is associated in the worldview of Patriarch Kirill and his supporters with the theory which is racist in its spirit, alleging that Russia and the Russian World are something fundamentally better and higher than other peoples, and Russia’s historical neighbors – Ukrainians and Belarusians – have the right to exist and the right to their own future exclusively as part of Russian reality. The fundamental denial of the right of the people of Ukraine to full canonical ecclesiastical independence (autocephaly) and their own statehood also looks quite logical within the framework of this racist concept, which divides peoples and states into ‘real’ and ‘artificial’ ones.
That said, it is also important to be aware that the ideology of the modern Russian Orthodox Church poses a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the entire Orthodox world. “Just as Russia invaded Ukraine, similarly the Moscow Patriarchate, headed by Patriarch Kirill, became an invader in the Orthodox Church, for example, in Africa, causing schism and strife," goes the Declaration of the Orthodox theologians. One must also be aware of the connection between the Russian World doctrine and the specific church decisions that Patriarch Kirill has initiated in recent years, from the severance of the Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (October 15, 2018) to the creation of the “Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa” (December 29, 2021) and active support of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine (2022). Starting from at least October 2018, all actions of Patriarch Kirill have been driven by a specific political objective. He seeks to radically expand the presence of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, weaken the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek-speaking Local Churches at maximum and thus impose the hegemony and rule of the Moscow Patriarch upon the Orthodox world.
In this situation, it is extremely important that the catholic Church adequately responds to the challenges posed by paganized Russian Orthodoxy. As the Gospel says, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Mt. 7:18). Acting in line with this principle commanded by our Savior, the Church must recognize conciliarly that the tree, which bears the “fruit of war” today, is poisonous, that is, to condemn the Russian World doctrine as heretical.
We call upon Your All-Holiness and the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to also consider in the shortest possible term the activities of Patriarch Kirill related to his opposition to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and many of the Local Orthodox Churches, and if this activity is recognized as having signs of schism – to hold the Patriarch of Moscow liable under canon law.
Given the above, we are asking your All-Holiness and the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to provide canonical assessment for several decisions of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted throughout 2018-2021, which, in our opinion, do not comply with the principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and threaten Pan-Orthodox unity:
• the decision to (unilaterally) sever Eucharistic communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Church of Cyprus and the Church of Greece;
• the decision to create (contrary to the canonical tradition and Canon 6 of the First Ecumenical Council) the church entities of the Moscow Patriarchate on the canonical territory of the ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria.
On behalf of the hierarchs of our Church and the numerous victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which the Patriarch of Moscow overtly and unequivocally approves and supports in public, we are appealing to Your All-Holiness and the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches with the following request:
• Condemn the Russian World doctrine and recognize it as heretical;
• Recognize the actions of Patriarch Kirill in the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria as schismatic;
• Strip Kirill Gundyaev of the right to hold the patriarchal throne of Moscow.
With sincere brotherly love in Christ, we are asking Your All-Holiness and the Blessed Primates to continue offering up your prayers for the suffering people of Ukraine and to uphold the request outlined herein – to consider the activities of the current head of the Russian Church objectively and in obedience to the doctrine and canons of the Holy Orthodox Church.
Acting for and on behalf of the Council of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine – Epiphanius
Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine
Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine